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A body so badly burned that it could be mistaken for a movie prop...except for the smell. That's not something the LAPD finds lying on the street every day. And when Detective Tully Jarsdel is called to the scene, it's clear to him that something about the placement of the corpse is intentional, even ritualistic. Jarsdel's former career in academia seems to finally be coming in handy, rather than serving merely as material for jokes from his partner, Morales. But nothing Jarsdel learned in school can prepare him for the deep evil behind this case, which appears to be as hopeless as it is violent. As Jarsdel and Morales attempt to settle their differences and uncover the motive behind the horrendous crime, they find themselves dragged into the underbelly of a city notorious for chewing up and spitting out anyone dumb enough to turn their back on survival.